Taste Test Tuesday- Scientifically Bred Fruit

The boyfriend likes to eat everything.  I have not found anything that he absolutely doesn’t like.  Well, I was close with cinnamon but when I began sharing this information with others, suddenly he didn’t mind cinnamon so much.  There are a few things that I know he favors, however, so since I can’t avoid the bad I tend to ensure he gets his favorites.  One of those is grapefruit.  

While shopping for our next cooking adventure, we came across these citrus hybrids- crosses between grapefruit and pomeloes.  The point was to get a sweeter grapefruit and a smaller pomelo.  We weren’t exactly sure what we were buying but they were only 1,500₩ each.  We sacrificed for science and decided to try two- the Melogold, and the Sweetie (some call it an Oroblanco).  That’s the first and last in the picture, with the pink grapefruit in the middle.  

If you can read Korean, you can see the heading of the poster is for the World Citrus Fruit Festival.   Glad we could take part in discovering!  Korea grows the most delicious tangerines I’ve ever tasted- time to branch out to other countries.   
We were a little surprised at the amount of rind and pith each one had.  They resemble a pomelo in this regard.  The fruit was orange sized or smaller, but the whole fruit was larger than most grapefruit.  I wonder what the peel would taste like candied?  

  
The fruit was sweet, but a hint of the grapefruit bitterness remained.  The Melogold and the Sweetie tasted different, but both tasted like grapefruit.  The boyfriend and I agreed that we both liked the Melogold better, but when testing such a small sample, perhaps the Sweetie we picked simply wasn’t ripe?   If they’re trying to breed the bitterness all out, I would sat they still have some work to do- but neither required adding sugar.  They were juicy, but the membranes seemed extra thick.  I don’t know if I would recommend peeling and eating in segments, since we weren’t able to eat the membranes with the fruit.  The plasticky thick texture ruined the juicy interior, since after the sweetness was gone, you were still chewing the skin.  We began spitting it out or eating around it as best we could.  

I probably wouldn’t buy either of these to eat plain regularly, but I would say they have a promising juice market, since they are already sweet but still taste bitter at the end- for diehard grapefruit lovers.  I bet they would also be delicious in cake, like this one the boyfriend and I tried recently.  Would you believe it’s called Denmark Diet Cake?  I’ve been dieting wrong all this time!  

 
We had just eaten a fancy dinner- it was his idea and his expense!  고마워!  While waiting to be seated, I had admired the cake in the shop across the mall isle.  As sometimes happens with fancy dinners, you pay more and don’t get quite as much food as you might like, so we had a few corners left in our stomachs.  I returned the favor of dinner by walking directly across to the cake cafe.  As I said, when I see grapefruit as an option, I have a higher chance of choosing it, since I know he likes it.  He would want me to say he would be happy with anything, but of course I want him the happiest!

If I could make this cake with Melogold, however, I would first need to discover the secret of how they kept the cream from absorbing the fruit’s juice!  Anyone have any tips?  

Taste Test Tuesday: Potato Skillet Pizza

Today I had an accident. It came about because I was feeling sorry for myself. I have no money. I have no oven. And I wanted pizza so badly.

Korea has their own version of the hot-n-ready $5 poisonous plastic pizza that is available in the States.  I have indulged… on more than one occasion. Pizza School is too close to my apartment. But yesterday I went to the open-air traditional market and spent my grocery budget.  I remember grocery shopping with my mom, getting home and unloading everything, then deciding to go out to eat instead. What a rich feeling! When I am rich again, I will relish the ability to eat at a restaurant while my refrigerator is also full. But that’s not a luxury people in their 20’s need to have.

The luxuries of the 20’s include insane kitchen experiments because what you crave isn’t tooooo far out of reach, if you are hungry enough.

A few days ago I saw a video tutorial for skillet pizza.  It may or may not have been Buzzfeed.  But I wasn’t sure a gas stove would have a low enough temperature when dealing with actual bread dough.  Plus I don’t keep yeast on hand.  So I decided to use those market purchases.

I sliced up a potato so thin, you could see different colors through it. Then, I sliced the slices to get the toothpickiest French fries I’ve ever seen. I sprinkled on some flour and salt, and then mixed in an egg. This is Poor Potato Pizza dough.

I went through my fridge and threw pizza-like toppings onto my counter: yellow bell pepper, tomatoes, ground beef, onions, and garlic. I sliced everything and ended up putting the onions in with the potato crust. The rest I fried. I threw some dried oregano and parsley into the mix, hoping to make it taste more Italian.

When the meat was cooked, I transferred the toppings to a plate, added oil to the frying pan, and made my potatoes into a circle using a spatula. While they were cooking, I trimmed my basil plant and cut up the last of my cheese.

Three years ago when I first arrived in Korea, I couldn’t find more than one kind of real cheese in the grocery store. Now, there are three! Alas, still expensive, but prices are dropping as cheese is becoming more popular. I mean, a country who’s staples are rice and spicy red pepper flakes? I thought cheese was a no brainer all along.

I flipped the potatoes and quickly laid out my cheese, basil, and toppings on top- making sure to be artistic so I could take a picture later.  I placed the lid on the frying pan to help the cheese melt before the bottom burned.

I left it in the pan past my comfort zone, but it turned out to be perfectly crispy on one side, melty and cheesy on the other.  I sliced it into quarters, picked it up and ate it in 5 minutes flat.  It was a lot messier than bread crust pizza.  Also I probably ate it faster than I could have consumed the same amount of bread.  Next time, I’ll use chopsticks and the deliciousness will last longer.

Being poor and oven-less isn’t always so bad.


RECIPE:

DOUGH: 1 medium potato, 1/2 small onion, ~1 T flour, sprinkle of salt, 1 egg

TOPPINGS: Ground beef, tomatoes, bell pepper, garlic, basil, oregano, parsley, mozzarella cheese

IMG_3668

Taste Test Tuesday – Homemade Kimbap 손 김밥

This last Saturday was a kitchen explosion.  When you’re making something that has 11+ ingredients that need to be kept separate before you roll them together, that happens.

Kimbap (say it like Kim is bopping you on the head- Kim bop) is one of my favorite foods.  Sometimes spelled gimbap, it is Korea’s “California roll”.  When I was in college, our dining service got a young, straight outta graduate school, extremely handsome and in-shape director, who was the brunt of many “he’s yummier than the food” jokes.  But the jokes stopped when the food took a turn for the better.  More vegetarian options- when you’re eating in the college dining room, that just screams healthy.  More of what students liked- my favorite gyro became a weekly instead of a monthly.  And my point of this whole story, the handsome director brought sushi to rural Iowa.  Well, they called it sushi, but it was really just California roll.  Basically avocado rolled up in rice and seaweed.  But I’d never laid eyes on sushi or California rolls before then, so I ate it in order to encourage the food service to continue improving.  They had a long way to go.

Thank God I’ve gotten myself some culture since then, and can tell you the difference between sushi, California rolls, and kimbap.  Minus the fake one (I’m looking at you California) I eat the other two regularly.

In fact, the lady at my apartment complex’s Kimbap Heaven (김밥 천국, a local eat quick for cheap place), knows my usual.  Actually, it’s a Kimbap Country but my first kimbap store was a Kimbap Heaven and now I call them all that.  There must be as many Kimbap stores as fast food chains in the good old USA.  My regular is one roll of tuna Kimbap and one roll of regular, for ₩4500, about $4.50.  I used to stop by the 김밥 나라 every Friday, but now I’ve made it myself.  With a little help.  It wasn’t pretty, but it was surprisingly easy and pretty yummy.

It cost me about ₩9000 to make, but I bought enough ingredients to make about 4x what I usually buy.  After running around in the grocery store for 15 minutes, my boyfriend stumbled upon a kimbap kit- and then we had to run around the store putting other stuff back.  Next time we’ll know.

Here’s what we did:

First, cook rice.  Then beat two eggs well, and fry them completely flat and as thin as you can.  Use oil to help accomplish this.  Then chop the egg, cucumber, carrot, imitation crab, and pressed ham in long, thin strips.  About 8 inches long.  Since we bought the kit, we had our daikon radish and burdock root already prepared for us.  You’ll also need sesame leaves but don’t cut those.  Fry the carrot a touch so it isn’t so crunchy.  If you want my favorite tuna kimbap, premix the tuna with mayo.

By then, the rice should be done.  You can stir in some sesame oil, sesame seeds, and salt until it’s seasoned to your taste.  I like sesame a lot, so I’d put enough oil in to just barely take the white color away from the rice.  My boyfriend has a steadier hand so he did this step.

Then, lay a piece of seaweed wrap specially made for kimbap on a wooden rolling mat, and spread a thin layer of rice over half.  Lay sesame leaves on top, and pile one piece of everything inside the leaves.  I accidentally cut the leaves in my chopping frenzy, but I think this is technically the way to do it.  Especially since you don’t want the mayo from the tuna mixing with the rice.  Then just roll and squeeze, using the mat to help you.  Try to get the rice to surround the goodies inside.  As you can tell, we did a lousy job of that, but we ate it immediately so it didn’t matter too much.  Next week for our picnic, we’ll have to be much better!

Here’s a few pictures from our experience!

You could also put some ground beef seasoned with garlic for sogogi kimbap, or some kimchi, some cheese, or hot peppers.  Now that I know the basics, I’m going to experiment!  But first, let me wash almost every dish in my house that we dirtied (how?) while cooking.

Also, Kimbap Heaven doesn’t need to worry.  Kimbap is a convenience food and I won’t be spending 2 hours shopping for it and cooking it all the time when I could be buying it in 3 minutes.

Prepared Ingredients

Let’s get ready to roollllllllllllll!

Taste Test Tuesday- Lemon Birthday Cake

I used to like to cook.  I liked it when I had my mom’s pantry to raid, which was kept well stocked with basics, and special ingredients would appear if I requested them.  I liked it when I knew the names of ingredients I was working with.  I liked it when I could follow a recipe, but I also I liked it when I my substituting experiments came out delicious.  It was a stress relief for me.

These days, I need extra patience to attempt a kitchen adventure.  I’m lucky to find the basic ingredients that my mom kept so well stocked.  Forget anything special.  I do a lot of substitutions, but not with happy results.  On the chance that I decide to follow a recipe from my Korean cook book, I’m lucky if following the recipe yields a success because the ingredients are a mystery to me.  And if supplies are available, I still have the hurdle of a 6 inch tall gas oven in front of me.  Flatbread, anyone?

Sometimes, I think something is delicious only to find it’s too sweet for any of my Korean associates.  Sometimes, I think something has no taste only to find out that my Korean associates would like to take it home and share it with their families.

With these things in mind, I decided to bake my boyfriend a birthday cake, even though I could buy one at the store that would be presentable and fit his taste buds.  That’s because he’s the best and I knew no matter how my cake turned out, he would appreciate it.  And maybe we would laugh together as we ate it anyway.  We’re both good at eating bad food.

I had lemons in my fridge, (incidentally USA grown lemons- home grown, haha!) so I decided lemon cake was the way to go.  I put a lemon and my little bottle of vanilla in my backpack to make the 1 and 1/2 hour trek to an oven that I knew I could use.  (Hello, church!)

If I ever move to a new dwelling in Korea, I would be willing to pay extra and compromise on missing space in order to have an oven.

The first lemon cake recipe that came up on my go-to cooking app, Yummly, had the simplest ingredients I’ve seen in a while.  That’s the problem with cooking apps, everyone’s trying to impress.

This Lemon Cake was my baking experiment.  First, I melted butter like the recipe said.  One thing I lament about butter here is that the sticks don’t come with the measurements printed on the wrapper.  So I planned on just melting an estimated amount of butter, then measuring.

Next I prepared my lemon by taking what I thought was a zester tool, and vigorously peeling the skin off my lemon.  Turns out that tool was actually for making juice or for grating dry ingredients.  All my precious zest was just stuck on the little grater knives, and not coming off.  Because I thought I just wasn’t trying hard enough, I wasted a little more zest before switching to a regular fine cheese grater.  Lemon zest juice, anyone?

When I got to the stage of dumping everything in, of course I forgot to measure the melted butter.  It all went in.

Finally, instead of using a big round pan, I used cupcake tins.  I normally would just use oil on the pan instead of cupcake papers because who wants to waste any cake because it’s stuck to the paper?!  Not to mention wasting paper on cake.  But I put papers in this time to be more presentable.  Happy accident- the cake separated perfectly from the paper!  Either the Korean papers are amazing, or I really put too much butter.

The end product was delicious.  Knowing my mistake, I’ve kept the butter thing a secret and no one has said anything because they’re too busy eating cake!  The taste wasn’t affected too much because my lemon zest juice was so strong, but the texture is somewhere between a lemon bar and a cake. They also came out quite flat- no rise like a cupcake at all- so I dusted the tops with powdered sugar and decided to put ice cream on top.

Bonus, my coworkers/taste testers at church gave the thumbs up of approval before I took my boyfriend’s cupcakes home.  I admit I tried it too, and when my boyfriend and I ate cake together later to celebrate, he ate two.  I guess we’re even!